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Posts Tagged ‘body of Christ’

After over fifty years in the organized religious church system my wife and I decided we had enough. Let me make clear what I am talking about when I say church (lower c). I am talking about a building, a religious organization with a pastor and board of elders in charge, a place for people to gather who are somewhat like-minded in their doctrine and beliefs.

There are many reasons why people leave the church system. People are hurt, abused, burned out and frustrated with the whole system.

People get hurt by being misunderstood or treated wrong by another church member. Something was said or done that made someone mad and the hurt feelings got the better of them and they decided to leave. Maybe a church leader did or said something that was misunderstood and hurt the feelings of another.

SpiritualAbuse

Many abuses can happen within the religious organization. Leaders of the church can manipulate people and take advantage due to their position and how the congregation places their pastor on a pedestal. Other members can say or do something that hurts the feelings of others. We have all heard of various cases of abuse among church leaders and congregants over the years. Fortunately this does not happen everywhere, but it does happen more than we want to admit.

People get burned out because they are so willing to work for the church and they are asked to do everything. Sometimes every night of the week they are busy with the work of the church, many times not getting to do anything they want to do and even at times neglecting their loved ones. Once they finally say no they are treated like someone fallen from grace.

Others get frustrated with the church politics, the cliques among members, the pastor’s sermon style, the worship music or some other specific reason they are no longer interested in attending a particular church. Most times they leave and go to another church thinking they will find what they are looking for at a different building yet under the same setup.

Sometimes we just get tired of the same thing week after week so we leave looking for a different church style, seeking a different preaching style and wanting to meet new people.

There are so many various reasons why we christians leave a particular church and move on. Yet for my wife and me none of the above reasons where why we left.

We were not hurt, abused or burned out. We were not mad or frustrated with any person or teaching. After church hopping for a while we found we were just as dissatisfied no matter where we attended.

For us we had a deep feeling of dissatisfaction with the basic concept of the modern-day church. We felt the organized system was not what God intended when He said He would build His Church. His Church (capital C) is not built with hands, brick, mortar, denominations or doctrines. His Church is made up of each of us who are followers of Christ. Each of us are kings and priests in the Kingdom of God and we each can have something to say and do that will be an encouragement to others.

Jesusandmanasone

To us Church is a community of believers living each day outside the walls of the religious systems and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church is a community of people daily loving God and loving others as Jesus did while on earth. Jesus loved, cared for and respected people no matter what label they had attached to them.

The church organization is not a bad thing. Many people learn about God’s love there, many find fellowship and purpose there. It is a choice each of us has to make for ourselves.

For my wife and me, we had no more interest in attending a weekly meeting listening to one person do all the talking. We had no more interest in being stereotyped according to the doctrine of the church to which we belonged. We feel so much more freedom living for God each day outside the walls of religion, free to love people of all backgrounds and beliefs without being judged or condemned because we do so.

This is our decision. We do not say we are right and everyone else is wrong. It is a decision you have to make for yourself. The thing we all need to remember is whether we go to church or not, we as followers of Christ are all members of his Church. We need to stop condemning those who see things differently. Whether in church or out of church we are to love all people the way they are and even more so those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be known as followers of Christ by the love we have for one another.

If you go to church and are satisfied there, if you are learning about the love of our Father and serving others with your talents, do not seek to leave. If you are in church but are feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the ways of the traditional church, leave and do not feel guilty about it. Either way let us not get into an ‘us versus them’ attitude because we see things differently.

We are each walking with God on the path He has for us. Not everyone will be on the same path. Keep seeking the guidance of the Spirit, love God and love others as you walk along your path each day.

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Ephesians 1:22,23 — And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

What stands out most to me is the description of what true church is, which is His body. It is not a building. It is not a place we go on a certain day. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We are the church.

I do not see separation in this statement. I do not see denominations, buildings, programs and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I do not see separated groups based on doctrine.

I see a living, active group of people going out into the world day by day in the love and strength of the Spirit. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day.

Body of Christ

I see people looking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit for truth and guidance. No more looking to a man, woman or a group of elders for teaching and guidance. Christ is our head and the Spirit is our teacher. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and any such leader mentioned are not positions of authority but are fellow believers who help encourage and build up their brothers and sisters through servant-hood example.

This leads me to think it is time to stop arguing over doctrines and interpretations. It is time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position. We need to realize we are all kings and priests and able to teach and give a word to uplift one another. We need to allow God to live through us daily as we go out into the world and show His love to people who are hurting, who are outcasts and who need to be uplifted and encouraged. It is time to look past the labels we put on one another and see human beings who were created in the image of God and who need love, acceptance and fellowship with the Spirit and with one another just as much as the rest of us.

We are the Church, we are the people of God who are filled with the power and love of the Holy Spirit going out into our world showing that God loves them.

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Many times when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad.

Just to be clear on this subject, neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church.

After nearly sixty years in the organization, and after the last ten of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, that is our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree and do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized religious system we know as church who truly love God and want to serve Him.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings us together with, no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room, but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

Church

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple, and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. There is no hierarchy in the Church today. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers, not a one man show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants more than they are anything else.

So when I say that we have left the church, it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left, not because we were mad or hurt but because we believe the religious system most people call church is far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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As Christians, we have been told that it is our duty to go into the world and preach the gospel.

For my wife and me, that has always meant we were to go to other countries and tell the gospel message to those who have never heard the good news.

We began to feel if we did not go on a mission trip to some other part of the world, we were not fulfilling the command to preach the gospel in all the world.

Yet, we never had a real desire or felt a ‘calling’ to go to another country. At first we felt a little guilty, like we were not doing our part.

After thinking and praying about it, we came to realize that not everyone is called to go to other countries to preach the gospel. Personally, I believe we are all to be ready to give an account of our belief and hope in God to anyone who asks. Yet I do not believe all of us are called to go to other countries, or participate in mission trips.

AllMissionaries

After getting involved with a local ministry at a major college in our town, we came to find a way that felt good to us to help reach the ‘world’ with the gospel. It is called International Friendships. I imagine most major colleges across the United States has this ministry to the international students. It is a Christian based ministry that gets other Christians involved with the international students coming here to attend college. They also provide home groups to learn about faith in God and a Friday night meeting when all groups join together for food and fellowship.

My wife and I got involved and thought it was a great program. International students come here to attend college, get hooked up with Christian friends, they hear the gospel message, then go back to their home countries and tell the gospel message to their own people.

For us this was a more meaningful way than trying to go to a foreign land and talk to people about Christ. We certainly have no problem with those who feel called to go on mission trips and give the gospel message. We also know that not everyone is called to do so.

On my job, I go into homes every day I work and see conditions that could be considered third world living conditions. It is hard to believe, but here in the United States, there are many who have not heard the true gospel message. They may have heard that we should attend a church, give our money, do good things and they have heard we are not do a list of many things. Yet, to hear about and actually see God’s love in action, they really do not know anything about it.

For us, we would actually feel bad if we paid a lot of money and gave our time to go to another country and tell others of the love of God when we know for a fact there are just as many right here in our home town that need to hear the same gospel message.

We are so thankful for people who are called to go to other countries and preach the gospel. Yet for us, we do not have that calling and we are content to stay right here and do the same thing by showing God’s love to all those we meet.

If any of you feel called to go on a mission trip to another part of the country or to a different country all together…..go. If you do not feel the calling to go on a mission trip, please, do not feel guilty. Jesus is building his church out of living stones, us, and each of us has a different calling and purpose to fulfill. Do not feel bad if your calling is different from another’s calling. Each of us are equally important parts of the body of Christ with a job to do. Not a job to earn our way, but a job that Christ will do through us to further his purpose and show the love of God.

YouareHere

Whether your mission field is in some far away land, or if it is your daily routine where you live and work, God lives within us and will touch others with his love. Be ready to give an answer of the hope within you when asked. Show the love of God to everyone you meet during your day, wherever you are at the time.

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The institution of marriage is such a great comparison to life with our Father. I think a lot of the time we miss some good points about marriage that directly relates to life with God. To many times we do not associate marriage with Kingdom meanings.

Actually marriage is a shadow of spiritual things. Ephesians 5:31 and 32 state … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. The church being mentioned here is not a building or an organization. The Church are the people who Jesus brings together. It is not a weekly meeting, it is a living organism made up of those of us saved by grace.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is how we are one with God. It’s hard to imagine that our Father lives within us. Jesus said when he left the earth, he would send us another comforter. Through his Spirit, he came to make his home within us and he is constantly with us.

We always think of God sitting on a big throne, way off in heaven somewhere and that one of these days we will go and meet Him and live with Him forever.

The thing is, that is not what His written word tells us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s physical dwelling place on earth. His Spirit dwells within us and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Now it’s not saying we are God, but we are one with God. The best way I’ve found to make sense of this is to think of marriage. When two individual people fall in love, make a commitment to love each other and live together, the bible says the two shall become one.

OnewithGod

Does that mean that the spouse becomes their partner, that they somehow become the same person? No, both people remain individuals, yet they live as one. Same with us and God, we are still the person He created, yet because God loves us and we love him, he made his home within us, and His spirit lives within us. We are one with God.

In John 17:21 Jesus is talking with the Father and asks … that they may all be one, even as You Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. Seems to me it is truly a marriage made in heaven.

We do not have to wait to a future time when we live with God in some far-away place, we are living as one with Him in His Kingdom right now. We are his temple, his dwelling place, and each of us are equally important parts of his body.

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I don’t know about you, but the verse in Hebrews 10:25 about not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together sure gets quoted a lot when it comes to attending church or not attending.

Once someone hears my wife and I have stopped attending an organized service each week, the first thing we usually hear is this verse.

Truth of the matter is, I do not think this verse is even talking about what we call church.

Body of Christ

As I’ve stated before, church is not a building or a place. Church is the people of God, those of us born into His kingdom by grace. Church is not an organization, it’s an organism. Church is not a one day event, it is a daily lifestyle of people loving God and loving others.

When reading the verses preceding this verse, you find it is talking about how we are now granted permission to enter into the Holy place, not a building, but into the presence of God. This happened when Jesus died and the veil was torn from top to bottom.

To me, this verse is saying that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ for encouragement and to stimulate one another to love and good deeds in Christ. It has nothing to do with an organized religious service in a building. It has everything to do with loving and communicating with other Christians.

One of readers of this blog, José Arroyo made the following comment, which goes along with this thought… “we assemble to motivate each other (to) love and good works…exactly what I didn’t get in church when I attended. Nevertheless, I can assemble with one or two, and Jesus is there to motivate us himself. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. That makes a threesome, enough for an assembly”.

When you think of countries where Christianity is against the law and churches are closed down, do we think the Christian people are wrong for not attending a service every week? They get together in small groups in houses or where-ever they feel they can meet safely. It may not be more than two or three people.

Another reader, Viki Wieland Manera, made this comment…”I have only been out of the church for <1 year, but I am finding the assembly of just 2, 3 or 4 is 100x more powerful than my former assembling with 200. There is deeper meaning and honesty. The masses for me created a falseness and mimicry that I was never comfortable with – even after 20 years of it”.

gathering-around-table

Jesus said where two or three gather together in my name, there I am in their midst. We do not need buildings or large groups of people to gather to fulfill this verse about assembling. We do need each other, no matter if it is meeting at home, or meeting for dinner at a restaurant, or getting together in a park. The important thing is to love God and love one another and be available to our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and build them up.

An interesting comment made by Terrence Williams said…”this verse stresses to me the absolute difference between “assembling” and “gathering”. A box of Legos can be constantly gathered together but it only takes shape to represent the desire of its creator when it is assembled by him. Then it is ready to perform the function it was created for. So is the body of Christ. Therefore, those who put all their eggs in the basket of Sunday church, it is they who have truly forsaken the “assembling” of themselves together. They are constantly gathering but never really assembling”.

Let me again point out I am not against church or those who attend. My wife and I were part of the weekly service for years, but over the past couple years, we have found that for us, it makes more sense to be outside the walls of religion and seek meaningful fellowship each day with our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than continue to sit in a pew listening to a select few participate. We believe in the priesthood of all believers, and that it is a daily lifestyle, not a weekly event, with everyone being equally important parts of the body.

A more in depth study of this topic can be viewed at the following link, written by my good friend David Yeubanks of truthforfree.com:  Click here: http://www.truthforfree.com/forsaking-the-assembly/

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